Department of Justice awards $20M to police agencies for body cameras

Body Camera

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Department of Justice has awarded $20 million to 106 state, city, tribal and municipal law enforcement agencies for body-worn camera programs.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the grants at a Justice Department summit in Little Rock, Ark., that is focusing on ways to reduce violent crime.

“As we strive to support local leaders and law enforcement officials in their work to protect their communities, we are mindful that effective public safety requires more than arrests and prosecutions,” Lynch said. “It also requires winning — and keeping — the trust and confidence of the citizens we serve. These grants will help more than 100 law enforcement agencies promote transparency and ensure accountability, clearing the way for the closer cooperation between residents and officers that is so vital to public safety.”

The awards to establish and enhance the camera operations are funded under the Office of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Fiscal Year 2016 Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program.

The BJA awarded more than $16 million to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, as well as a $3 million supplemental award, to continue support for body-worn camera training and technical assistance. An additional $474,000 was awarded earlier this year under the 2016 Small Agency Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program.

Last year, the Body Worn Camera program was launched after a recommendation by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing that law enforcement agencies use technology to strengthen relations with communities. A panel found that law enforcement use of body-worn camera programs improve law enforcement’s interaction with the public.

Awardees were in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming as well as Puerto Rico. Tribal awardees include Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.

The grant announcement comes after the recent fatal shootings of black men by police in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C.

On Saturday, Charlotte police released body and dashcam video recorded during the encounter four days earlier, along with photos and other evidence they say justifies the shooting.

A new law in North Carolina goes into effect Oct. 1 that blocks the public from obtaining recordings from body cameras or dashboard cameras.

In Tulsa, a police officer responsible for shooting an unarmed motorist to death is facing first-degree manslaughter charges. Footage from the scene shows the victim with his hands in the air at one point on Sept. 16.